Friday, June 16, 2017

Healthy Habits: Melanoma and Pregnancy

Just recently, a pregnant New Jersey woman died after abdominal pain turned out to be deadly melanoma.  Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and it is estimated that 87K Americans will be diagnosed this year alone.  It is reported that the NJ mom was first diagnosed in 2015 when she had a suspicious mole removed but continued skin checkups every 3 months.  Doctors commonly tell patients that their moles may darken, grow and change during pregnancy, which is true but that does not mean that all of these changes are benign. They could signify cancerous changes.  I had a chance to interview Dr. Janet Prystowsky, who developed Livad Skin Care, to learn more.

What are some of the common signs of melanoma?
Everybody should know the ABCDE’s of skin cancer.
Asymmetry: If you draw an imaginary line through your mole, is it the same on both sides? Most normal moles are.
Border: Is there a distinct border between your mole and regular skin? Or does it fade away from the center with a blurry edge? A typical mole should have a distinct border.
Color: Does your mole have multiple colors like white, black, red, and brown? Most normal moles are only one color.
Diameter: Is your mole wider than a pencil eraser? Most normal moles are smaller.
Evolution: Has your mole changed over time? Most normal moles stay the same.
A mole only needs to fail one of the above tests to cause concern. A small brown asymmetrical mole may be just as dangerous as a red, white, and black mole with ill-defined borders.
What are some special considerations for a pregnant woman who may have signs of melanoma?
Melanoma, albeit rarely, can spread to the fetus. If you suspect that you may have melanoma, you need to have it examined immediately. Even if melanoma does not spread to the fetus, it can metastasize elsewhere, causing complications during pregnancy and delivery. Skin cancer is deadly. Catch it early.
How quickly does melanoma spread?
It’s hard to say how long it takes melanoma to spread. When a melanoma spreads downwards through the skin, it eventually reaches a blood supply. From there it can spread to the rest of the body. Depending on growth rate and direction, it could take months to years.
What do people of all ages need to do to help prevent skin cancer?
Preventing skin cancer is as easy as wearing sunscreen and sun protective clothing. Saying no to tanning is an easy way to prevent skin cancer. Instill good sun habits in your children.

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